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Who do we hold accountable?

Social media has been atwitter (see what I did there) with an article suggesting that we should offer amnesty to those who played a role in enacting the worst of the pandemic policies. However, many are not willing to forgive and forget so quickly.

Teachers unions kept kids out of school long enough to do a lot of harm, and parents want them held accountable.

I’ve followed the antics of AFT president Randi Weingarten for long enough to know that she will never apologize to the children of America or be held responsible for the current state of public education.

And she shouldn’t be expected to.

Despite the AFT and NEA marketing their great concern for the students of our country, that’s not what their members pay them to advocate for. At the end of the day, a teachers union represents teachers not students.

I don’t blame AFT or NEA for the impact of school closures. I blame the system that has allowed public teachers unions to become the most powerful special interest group in the country.

As the President of AFT, Weingarten’s job is to negotiate the best deal for her members. The most money, the most generous benefits, and the most comfortable working conditions—the deals that get them more dues paying members. It’s not her job to make sure the public education system works for students–that’s politicians’, education secretaries, and school administrators’ jobs.

As 2022 comes to end, we shouldn’t worry about who to forgive, about who should say sorry, or who is most at fault. What we should worry about is how one special interest group was granted the power to single-handedly affect an entire generation of children’s learning outcomes for its own benefit and what we as country can do to ensure it doesn’t keep happening. The damage is steep, and kids don’t have time to wait while the adults fight about who is to blame. The money and power lie in too few hands and something needs to be done. 

Teacher unions love to speak about equity, but political power today is not equitable. We must take a serious look into creating a system that is not tipped in favor of the special interest groups that are given privileges within the government and instead in the hands of everyday Americans who want the best for their families.

Brigette Herbst

Brigette Herbst is the Senior Organizing Director of Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2018, Brigette’s career included working in the public sector for New York State, teaching elementary school, coaching high school sports, and working as a municipal county employee. This unique experience offers Brigette an inside perspective on public employee culture in New York. She focuses on educating New Yorkers about their constitutional rights with regard to union membership and promoting fair treatment of workers. Brigette has her bachelor’s degree in history and politics and her master’s degree in elementary education. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and planning trips for her family.